One of the few paintings of Vincent Van Gogh still in private hands, the Street scene in Montmartre sold for 13 million euros at an auction on Thursday last week.
“Paintings from the Montmartre series are rare: it’s very likely to garner a lot of interest from private buyers, the major Van Gogh collectors all around the world, and probably from institutions as well,” said Aurelie Vandevoorde, Sotheby’s head of Impressionist and modern art in Paris. Sotheby’s was in charge of the sale.
It was the highlight of 33 works on sale from masters including Degas, Magritte, Modigliani, Klee, Rodin and his muse Camille Claudel.
The 1887 work by the Dutch post-Impressionist master, one of more than 200 paintings he made during two years spent in Paris, portrays one of the windmills that dotted Montmartre when it was still just a village on the northern outskirts of the capital.
A couple stroll and two children play in front of a wooden fence and leafless trees depicted in the characteristic tan and brown tones of his “Dutch palette”, punctuated by a bright red flag blowing above the mill.The period marked a turning point in Van Gogh’s career as he began exploring expressionist techniques and new uses of colour in the final years of his life, before his suicide in 1890 at the age of just 37.
The last Van Gogh sold at a public auction, Labourer in a Field from 1889, went for 81 million dollars at a New York sale in 2017.
Specialists knew of the work but it was only catalogued as a black-and-white photograph and had not appeared in public since it was acquired by a French family around 1920.